Students add their voice to trustee byelection

Two Chilliwack high school students didn't let age stop them from grilling trustee candidates at last Wednesday's all-candidates meeting.

Grade 11 Sardis secondary student Michaela Collins spent last week's all-candidates meeting taking notes and formulating the perfect question.

Two high school students didn’t let their age stop them from grilling trustee candidates at last Wednesday’s all-candidates meeting.

Michaela Collins and Kennedy Hunter, both Grade 11 students at Sardis secondary, didn’t want to sit back and let the adults decide who will dictate their final school years.

“We need to be involved,” Collins told The Progress after the meeting. “There’s a lack of political awareness, of knowing what’s going on in our community –especially in Chilliwack.”

“We [the students] can have an influence,” said Hunter.

After listening for more than an hour of candidates respond to questions on budgets, funding, government, policy, and corporate sponsorship, Hunter’s hand shot up.

“How is that money going to be directly spent on us?” she asked the candidates.

Both Karen Jarvis and Corey Neyrinck championed programs for at-risk students in the elementary grades, while Dan Coulter suggested expanding trades programming and Ben Besler answered “in the classroom.”

Collins waited until the final minutes of the meeting before braving the candidates.

For several minutes she’d listened to them discuss their views on corporate sponsorship in schools. She heard Coulter and Jarvis vehemently oppose any kind of sponsorship; Neyrinck in favour as long as the corporations didn’t require anything in return; and Besler in full support.

The whole time scribbling down notes and formulating a question.

“I would like to return to the topic of private enterprise with a question mostly directed to Mr. Besler,” she started.

“You say that you don’t want to be discriminatory with the acceptance of funds, but the message you send is to do what will get you more without regard for ethics. Not only are you possibly sacrificing the ethics of the board and endorsing poor ethics, what about the example you set for students?”

Besler told her he didn’t believe it to be unethical. If corporations wanted to sponsor programs or school jerseys that would enhance education, the district shouldn’t shy away from such funds even if it means having corporate signage in schools and corporate logos on jerseys.

Collins and Hunter hope the candidates took their questions seriously, because even their penmanship won’t be on the ballots come Nov. 30, their opinions may very well be.

Both said they’d be spreading their views on each candidate to all eligible voters in their lives.